A group providing respite for youngsters growing up in a radiation hotspot fear changes to visas could cut the number of children they can help.
The Halifax and Bradford branch of the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline brings groups of youngsters to Calderdale from Belarus and Ukraine for recuperative holidays.
But from 2013, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be withdrawing free visas for children coming to the UK for these kinds of stays.
Angela Bottomley, chairwoman of the branch, said: “Once these charges are introduced it will be cost in the region of £86 extra per child to bring them to the UK for their short visit.
“For our group of 12 this year, that would have been an extra £1,032 that we would have had to raise locally.
“It’s difficult enough for us to raise the money already.
“What this actually means is that we will inevitably have to reduce the amount of children they bring in order to still fund the visit.”
The charity is launching an e-petition and say they need 100,000 signatures to enable them to have the matter debated in parliament.
Angela recently returned from spending a week with school, families and organisations in Ukraine.
She said: “I travelled around areas still very much affected and contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster, including a visit to the Chernobyl reactor itself.
“I feel more motivated than ever for the need to continue to try and help these communities who are still suffering from the consequences of the disaster. After listening to mothers talking about the changes in their children who have visited the UK and how it has turned round the lives, of not just the children, but the whole family I really want to continue what we do and continue to bring as many children as possible to our area for a recuperative holiday.”
Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline has brought 46,000 youngsters to stay with host families in the UK since it started in 1992.
It also provides ongoing supplies of multi-vitamins and basic healthcare products to the children on their return.
It helps children to sick to travel by providing chemotherapy medicines to children’s cancer hospitals.
When needed, it also brings children to the UK for long-term medical care and education.
The Chernobyl nuclear accident, in 1986, which saw one of four nuclear reactors at the Chernobyl power station explode, was the world’s worst nuclear accident.
The wind carried the radiation cloud north over Belarus where 70 per cent of the radiation fell.
The ground was heavily contaminated and will continue to be for thousands of years.
For more about Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline and its work, visit the charity’s website at www.ccll.org.uk.
To sign the charity’s petition, visit www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37945.